Spinal surgeons can share international expertise livestreaming from the procedure room

Daniel Sciubba

As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue, Daniel Sciubba (New York, USA), discusses how the ‘new normal’ of virtual communication has transformed medical practice and, in particular, how livestreaming technology can help educate and inform the next generation of spinal surgeons.

The way we learn has changed significantly since my days in school, when the typical pattern for absorbing information was to read, write and regurgitate.

Learning is more dynamic today. When I need to grasp a new idea, whether it is a medical technique or a method for fixing my ice maker, the first place I turn is an instructional video. Having spent my career sharing data through scientific papers and even a couple of books, it might sound ironic when I assert that virtual, interactive communication has become our norm. But it’s true: If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million, and I’m excited about where that’s leading our field.

The virtual age has transformed neurosurgery in myriad ways, but one that deserves particular attention is the emerging practice of livestreaming procedures from the operating room to viewers’ iPads or laptops. This kind of real-time collaboration is an incredible way for neurosurgeons across the world to both learn from each other and share their knowledge with students, and I think we should all consider the benefits of adopting this easy-to-use technology.

Although in-person meetings remain a wonderful way for us to collaborate and learn, relying on them exclusively would be inefficient now, when the best neurosurgical minds are available at the click of a button—regardless of their location.

Complex surgeries: Better seen than explained

At Northwell Health, my team is in the process of onboarding a pioneering livestreaming platform by Avail Medsystems so that we will be able to quickly and simply transmit high-quality broadcasts of procedures not only to our colleagues, but also to students, residents, fellows, device engineers, and field representatives—anywhere, at any time.

The system will be useful for the broadcast of surgeries that involve complex manoeuvres: spine reconstructions, cancer removals, brain resections, and endovascular procedures. Complicated to explain, these procedures are best understood through observation.

Technology like this can boost delivery of neurosurgical care in several ways. It can help teach our peers to apply new technologies, such as augmented reality platforms, predictive analytics, or other tools; it can more fully prepare students to conduct procedures by providing them with a kind of ‘flight simulator,’ making their learning curve slimmer when they reach the operating room; and it can heighten innovation by allowing more opportunities for physicians to observe device representatives as they demonstrate the use of cutting-edge tools. Further, the livestreamed procedures can improve quality control within health systems by allowing the review and comparison of surgeons’ techniques to identify efficiencies.

With this technology becoming more prevalent, we are witnessing the end of the era in which our location dictated who we could turn to for help or advice. It will now be possible for every doctor to establish an international circle of colleagues. The end zone has moved, and no one wants to go back.

Investing in the healthcare of tomorrow

Avail’s mobile console includes a screen, high-definition cameras, and plug-ins for multiple brand-agnostic imaging sources so that remote viewers on a laptop or iPad can see the medical team, the surgeon’s hands, the surgical field, and the back table while monitoring real-time imaging such as intravenous ultrasound or fluoroscopy.

Watching from any location around the world, observers can remotely change the camera’s angle or zoom range and communicate with the broadcasting surgeon through two-way audio and an annotation system. They can share their screens with others, from individuals to groups at medical schools or scientific conferences.

By allowing that communication among surgeons and our trainees, this technology will ultimately support one of our most essential goals: making meaningful improvements in patient care.

Among the key assurances our patients seek from us is our commitment to using current best practices in all the care we administer. And, like us, our patients have a vested interest in improvements that will make tomorrow’s healthcare better than today’s.

By fostering collaboration among spinal surgeons in the pursuit of these goals, livestreaming technology is poised to become one of our field’s most promising and accessible tools.

Daniel Sciubba is the senior vice president of Neurosurgery at Northwell Health, chair of Neurosurgery at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, co-director of the Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Northwell Health, and chair of Neurosciences at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.


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